October 9th, 2017
Instagram is a fantastic platform for B2B marketers. It provides a space for making new connections in almost any industry, at almost any stage in their development. With more than 600 million users, it’s a gold mine for connecting with your current and potential customers.
Over half of millennials are active users on Instagram. You might be thinking, “Why do I want to target millennials?” Well, what if I told you that 40 percent of the workforce in most average companies is made up of millennials? In fact, it’s estimated that in 10 years, more than 70 percent of the workforce will be millennials. You need to be marketing to this demographic, which means you need to consider marketing on Instagram as a great opportunity to build your brand and generate leads.
It’s time for marketers to walk away from the stereotypes about millennials and acknowledge they’ve innovated across multiple industries and now play a major part in the economy. And Instagram is one of the best ways to reach this group of business executives and entrepreneurs.
In this guide, we’ve rounded up several examples of B2B brands leveraging Instagram to get closer to customers and drive real results. You’ll notice that none of these brands use shady, behind-the-scenes tactics like buying and selling followers. We’re talking about real brands reaching real people with unique and interesting content. Here are seven examples of B2B brands doing Instagram marketing the right way.
1. MailChimp Finds Opportunities for Inspired, Whimsical Design
Whimsical content shows the playful side of your business and represents a laid-back yet intelligent corporate culture. Content that embraces good design and takes a different angle with a popular trend will captivate your audience. A fun, whimsical graphic might be the thing that pushes a new follower to learn more about your business.
This post from MailChimp’s Instagram account leverages a timely hashtag (#NationalHotdogDay) and brand name to show MailChimp’s quirky side:
At the end of the day, people turn to Instagram to be visually surprised and inspired, often scrolling through their feed mindlessly until something catches their eye. Artistic content is appreciated and gives value to your customers without hiding the fact that the content is marketing-focused.
2. Hubspot Provides Value through Rich Content
HubSpot consistently provides value to its followers on Instagram by posting informational content. This video from July 2017 gives an overview of five different ways a company can promote great work-life balance:
This post functions essentially as a mini blog post, giving five key points about a central idea in a way that’s easily digested. The suggestions include remote work options, generous parental leave, and paid time off. Noticeably absent: Blatant marketing for HubSpot!
HubSpot doesn’t try to use this as an opportunity to plug their own product. It’s all about adding value! The post communicates company values and establishes trust between HubSpot and their customers by offering information without asking for anything in return.
3. Hootsuite Shows Off the Folks Making the Sale
Instagram provides a great opportunity to show off your company’s corporate culture and give your audience a chance to connect with your people. At the end of the day, B2B is really just people selling to people on behalf of organizations and brands. In many industries, B2B sales stills happen on a one-to-one basis, and it’s a brand’s sales rep or account manager who actually closes a deal.
Hootsuite often posts images of its employees having fun together at the office, playing ping-pong, volunteering, or bonding over a meal. Just as a hiring manager is likely to check out a potential employee’s social media presence, potential customers are likely to browse the brand’s social media to see what its employees are all about as well. First impressions mean a lot, and an Instagram post that showcases your people and culture could make the difference between a warm first interaction or a call that is as cold as ice.
4. IBM Stays Relevant with Reactive Storytelling
IBM uses reactive storytelling during popular events to share how these events are leveraging the company’s technology. Did you know that the US Open Tennis Championships collects data using IBM technology? Neither did I—until I saw this post a few days ago on IBM’s account.
This picture is effective because it uses an interesting perspective—a spectator in the stands viewing live data on their phone—and because the US Open was top-of-mind for so many at the time. People who were following the #USOpen hashtag were likely to come across this post and form an association between the event and the IBM brand.
5. General Electric Keeps Its Brand Interesting to a Wide Audience
There are no boring industries—just boring marketers who are not passionate about their company or engaged with their customers.
A great example of a brand that embraces their history—sexy or otherwise—is General Electric. GE is over a century old and has a history of involvement in some of the most important developments in defense, aviation, and technology, to name a few.
Many people don’t know exactly what GE does, even though they recognize the name, and that is where storytelling becomes important. People respond to nostalgia. Dr. Seuss is a classic figure from many people’s childhoods, and it is interesting and surprising that he made advertisements for GE before writing children’s stories.
As I wrote in the article “How to Create Great Content For A Boring Industry,” your product doesn’t have to be cool, but your story does. If your product is highly technical or you operate in a niche industry, it might be tempting to solely focus on features, but don’t let that discourage you from identifying and amplifying things that make your brand’s story unique.
6. IBM Takes Advantage of Its Company History
IBM and General Electric have a long, storied history in the technology industry. Instagram provides a golden opportunity to share some of this history with potential customers who might not have known about your company’s rich history. In B2B sales, there’s credibility at play when it comes to organizations and companies that have stood the test of time.
There’s a common saying in boardrooms: “No one has ever gotten fired for buying IBM.” That saying holds weight across many different industries if you’re a brand that has history. People want to work with companies that have years of experience delivering solutions. People want to work with solutions that have helped organizations like theirs. People want to ensure that when they sign a contract with you, they’re not going to lose their job.
Take this photo from IBM as an example of IBM flexing its history muscle:
This humblebrag throwback highlights a major achievement while building credibility. The fact that IBM is able to highlight its role in establishing the entire PC industry, which changed how people interact with technology forever and made computers accessible to the general public, is huge. Instagram is the perfect platform for sharing these kinds of stories if you’ve got some old photos in the archives or vintage ads. If you have any old content in your archives, dust it off and use it to show your audience how rich your history is.
7. Shopify Keeps Its Content Design Consistent
B2B brands should monitor the consistency of their posts, including how each post looks alongside others to users who visit branded social profiles.
A great example of content consistency comes from Shopify, which recently posted a series of videos from its #buildabiz campaign, showcasing the stories of some of the company’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Shopify’s Build a Business campaign is now in its seventh session and has become the world’s largest competition for entrepreneurs. Every video from the campaign starts with text overlaid on a black-and-white still photo of one or more people. This design consistency makes for a striking and cohesive story when users visit Shopify’s profile.
Instagram content with faces receives 38 percent more likes. Using faces is an easy strategy that any business can adopt because even if the product you are selling is software, there are people using your product to do great things in their own business. Shopify’s design strategy unifies these stories in a way that makes good design and business sense.
Putting It All Together
The most successful B2B brands on Instagram recognize that the channels being ignored are the channels where opportunities lie. Instagram, while growing quickly, is often still a channel that B2B brands are overlooking as an opportunity to drive results.
Take some of these insights and use them for inspiration to try Instagram for your brand, or maybe try something entirely different. The key here is to recognize that the most innovative brands aren’t those that go with the flow—they’re the ones that take a shovel and create their own stream.
What have you found to be a successful way of finding success on Instagram? Share your thoughts in the comments and help the entire community better understand the value of this channel.